How to Install Hand Railing on a Deck

Written by chris deziel Google
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How to Install Hand Railing on a Deck
The railing is an essential part of deck construction. (old iron chair on decking overlooking small lake image by green 308 from

A hand railing can add extra beauty to your deck, but its functional purposes outweigh its aesthetic ones. A railing is a necessary safety requirement if the deck is more than 30 inches high, and it is advisable if the ground below is hazardous. A balustrade-style railing is attractive, not difficult to build and will provide adequate protection. Common railing heights and balustrade spacings are 36 and 6 inches respectively, but local codes vary, so it is a good idea to check these with your local planning department.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 4x4 lumber
  • Pencil
  • Combination square
  • Circular saw
  • Goggles
  • Hand saw
  • Level
  • Drill
  • 1/2-inch drill bit
  • 1/2x6-inch carriage bolts
  • 1/2-inch nuts and washers
  • Wrench
  • 2x6 top rail lumber
  • 2x4 bottom rail lumber
  • 2x2 balustrade lumber
  • 3-inch decking screws
  • #2 Phillips drill bit

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    Setting the Posts

  1. 1

    Mark post positions at each corner of the deck at 72-inch intervals in between. Mark posts on both sides of all stairways.

  2. 2

    Cut the required number of 42-inch posts from 4x4 lumber.

  3. 3

    Cut a notch in the bottom of each post that is 6 inches long and 1-3/4-inches deep. Draw the notch with a combination square and a pencil. Set the blade of a circular saw to 1-3/4-inches and crosscut a line 6 inches from the bottom. Set the blade at full depth, and cut along the length of the notch, starting at the bottom and finishing at the cross cut. Finish cutting out the notch with a hand saw.

  4. 4

    Set the posts in position with the end of the notch hanging over the rim joist and, using a level to ensure they are straight, drill two 1/2-inch holes through the notch and the rim joist.

  5. 5

    Insert carriage bolts through the holes, put a 1/2-inch washer on the end of each bolt and use a wrench to screw on a 1/2-inch nut. If the rim joist is curved or warped, insert a shim between the notch and the joist to keep the post straight while you tighten the nut.

    Making the Railing

  1. 1

    Set 2x6 top rails on the tops of the posts, making sure they join at the midpoint of a post. Screw them down with 3-inch decking screws.

  2. 2

    Cut out 2x2 lumber that will fit between the posts, and screw it to the underside of the top rail about 1/2-inch from the outside edge.

  3. 3

    Cut out lengths of 2x4 bottom rail material that will fit snugly between the posts and on either end attach 2x2 balustrades cut to a length of 32 inches. Add balustrades at 6-inch intervals in between, using only one screw to attach each balustrade to the centre of the bottom rail.

  4. 4

    Set two scrap pieces of 4x4 on their sides next to two adjacent posts, and set the bottom rail on them. Screw the tops of the balustrades into the support on the underside of the top rail, using the level to ensure that the balustrades are straight. Screw the end balustrades directly into the posts.

  5. 5

    Sand and paint or stain the railing.

Tips and warnings

  • Check your local codes for proper railing height and construction material and for proper balustrade spacing and distance from the bottom rail to the deck.
  • Wear goggles when using a circular saw, and keep your hands out of the path of the blade.

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